SHELTERING IN THE UNDERGROUND IN WORLD WAR
A TALK TO THE HISTORY SOCIETY
APRIL 20TH 2018
BY ALAN WILLIAMS
This was a very well researched and illuminating talk on the
use of the underground stations for protection during the war.
In anticipation of German bombing raids on London and other
key cities the Government had built some shelters.
They assumed at first that raids would happen in the daytime,
be of short duration and use gas.
However it soon became clear that they were going to happen
predominately at night, last for a long time, and not use gas.
At first, the Government forbade the practice of using the stations
but it became increasingly clear that the scale of the bombing
that was unleashed was such, that it was inevitable that the
underground would have to be used. More and more Londoners took
to spending the night in the stations and at the peak of the
bombing, thousands were taking their bedding and most precious
documents and trying to get what sleep they could. It could
not have been a pleasant experience. People were packed in on
the platforms like sardines with no privacy, and no toilet facilities.
As time went on the authorities began to arrange for food and
drink to be on offer and some rudimentary bed structures were
provided. We were shown a number of photographs which tried
to give the impression that it was a fun experience and there
was a short film of Arthur Askey singing a cheery song while
he was getting up in the morning. Morale had to be kept up.
It is undeniable that sheltering the underground stations must
have saved thousands of lives. Many who emerged in the morning
would have found their homes reduced to rubble as the raids
intensified. Only one station took a direct hit and that was
caused by a V2 missile as late as 1944 . There would simply
not been enough shelters to protect Londoners without the use
of these stations.